Rio 2016 Paralympics: Athlete Marieke Vervoort 'considering euthanasia after Games' because of debilitating illness

'I want everybody to have a glass of champagne and to say, Cheers, Marieke. All the best. You had a good life'

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The Independent Online

A Belgian Paralympic athlete with an incurable degenerative spinal disease has said she is considering euthanasia after appearing in the Rio 2016 Games, according to reports in French media.   

Marieke Vervoort, a wheelchair sprinter and Paralympic gold medalist, is one of a number of athletes to have qualified for the Games. The 37-year-old took gold in the 100m race in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

But Vervoort has been suffering from a debilitating illness for 20 years that causes paralysis in her legs, leaving her in chronic pain. It also causes her to fit regularly, meaning Vervoot requires around the clock care.

She relies on her labrador Zen to alert others if she starts fitting while alone. 

In July, Vervoort said she has thought about euthanasia, which is legal in Belgium with the written approval of three doctors. Patients with psychiatric conditions can also apply for the right to legally end their lives in Belgium, a country with one of the most liberal laws on assisted dying. 

“I will finish my career after Rio. After that, we'll see what life brings and I'll try to make the best of it. I'm starting to think about euthanasia. Despite my illness, I've been able to experience things other people only dream of," she told Belgian newspaper L'Avenir in August, according to a translation obtained by the Independent.

Speaking to France 2, Vervoort said her condition leaves her constantly in pain, struggling to sleep and requiring around-the-clock support.  

“Everybody sees me laughing and happy and gold medals,” she said. “They don’t see the other part of me. I can have lots and lots of pain. I sleep sometimes only 10 minutes. But I still get the gold medal. The secret is here (points to her head).

"My funeral, it’s not going to be in a church. It’s not going to be with some coffee and some cake. But I want everybody to have a glass of champagne and to say, ‘Cheers, Marieke. All the best. You had a good life. Now you are in a better place."

Vervoort did not respond to a request for comment. 

Additional reporting by Charlotte Mason 

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